Winter 2012 Poultry Press NEXT
Bookmark and Share
Activists Rally In Brooklyn to Protest Chickens in Kaporos Rituals alliance protest

“This Sunday and Monday, a group calling itself The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos will be conducting two protests in Brooklyn, in an effort to end the practice of hoisting live roosters or hens over people’s heads as a way for atoning for sins. . . . We support the demonstrations.”
EDITORIAL, Jewish Standard, September 21, 2012

This year, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos hosted two successful 2-hour demonstrations in Brooklyn, New York, on September 23 & 24, to protest and eliminate the “swinging” and slaughtering of chickens in Kaporos ceremonies the week before Yom Kippur – the Jewish Day of Atonement – in which chickens are ritually sacrificed by many (but not by most) Orthodox Jews by being waved over practitioners’ heads and butchered in public ceremonies.

Formed in New York City in 2010, the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos is a project of United Poultry Concerns for compassionate people everywhere who seek to replace chickens in Kaporos ceremonies with money or other non-animal symbols of atonement.

Why? Because the use of chickens in Kaporos rituals is cruel and contrary to Jewish teachings. It is not a mitzvah but a bizarre custom that originated in the middle ages. Most observers give money to charity which they express symbolically by swinging coins while reciting prayers for mercy and peace. Waving and slaughtering chickens as Kaporos violates tsa’ar ba’alei chaim, the Jewish mandate to avoid needlessly hurting animals and to show them compassion.

Chickens used in Kaporos rituals are trucked from factory farms to urban areas and held in transport crates for days without food, water or shelter. Brooklyn resident and Alliance member Rina Deych has witnessed chickens packed pitifully in crates on top of crates in the cold and rain for entire nights. She writes: “Every year, I see chickens ROUTINELY thrown into dumpsters, the dead along with birds who are dying of dehydration, injury, exhaustion, and pain.”

New York State Anti-Cruelty Law, Article 26, states that animals must have fresh food, water, and protection from the elements. Kaporos practitioners violate this law so flagrantly and mercilessly that they mock their own prayers for mercy and peace. And while they may claim to distribute the butchered birds to the poor, this distribution is invoked as a secondary justification that according to rabbis and other critics is meaningless because the mistreatment of the chickens used in Kaporos renders them non-kosher – a point Rabbi Avi Zarki in North Tel Aviv made this year in “Israel: Kaporos Under Fire Earlier Than Usual” in The Yeshiva World, September 4, 2012. As well, chickens dead and alive have been observed in Los Angeles and New York being thrown into garbage bags without any charitable goal.

alliance protest2

“Chickens suffer terribly in Kaporos rituals,” says the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. “They suffer in being callously held with their wings pinned painfully and injuriously backward and in being packed in crates for days, without food or water leading up to the ritual. They suffer in being slaughtered and handled as if they were inanimate objects, unworthy of kindness, mercy or respect.”

Criticizing the gross mishandling of the birds, Orthodox Rabbi Yonassan Gershom describes the cruelty of holding chickens suspended by their wings: “Imagine somebody holding your arms behind your back and then suspending you by the elbows to get an idea of what this method would feel like. The feet of a chicken are made to support its weight; the wings are not.”

Rabbi Gershom is not alone in objecting to the whole grotesque performance. More and more Orthodox rabbis are speaking out against using chickens in Kaporos rituals on grounds of religion, morality, and compassion for animals.

In 2010, Rabbi Steven Weil, CEO of the Orthodox Union of Rabbis in New York City, told the Alliance that the OU opposes using chickens as Kaporos due to the ritual’s “insensitivity” to the birds and the lack of historical foundation.

alliance rescue
Alliance activists rescue Kaporos chickens in 2012.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Head of Jerusalem’s Yeshivat Ateret Cohanim, stated in a video presentation in 2010 that in the light of cruelty to animals, “It is recommended that one should prefer to conduct the atonement ceremony with money.”

Orthodox Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz wrote in The Jewish Week that Kaporos observers “should be cultivating mercy for all those who suffer and not be perpetuating pain on sentient creatures in the name of piety.”

Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Congress and Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, wrote: “Those who wish to fulfill this custom can do so fully by using money.” Rabbi Shlomo Segal, Rabbi of Beth Shalom of Kings Bay in Brooklyn, states: “The pain caused to the chickens in the process of performing Kapparot is absolutely unnecessary. Giving money is a more humane method.”

“There is a perfectly acceptable Kaporos practice that not only avoids animal cruelty, but can help reduce hunger and show compassion to all,” says the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos. “Money can be used instead of swinging and sacrificing chickens, and funds raised can be given directly to charities. People ask mercy from God. The chickens need mercy from us. We ask Kaporos observers to show mercy and use money instead of chickens.”

This year, the Alliance rescued 80 suffering chickens from Kaporos, who are living safely, permanently, and happily in sanctuaries.

chava & freidl
Photo: Richard Cundari
Chava & Freidl were saved from Kaporos by David Rosenfeld
to live happily at Safe Haven Sanctuary in NY in 2012.

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos campaign is not only about ending the needless horror of Kaporos. It is part of the broader discussion of the way chickens are exploited and tortured in our society and around the world – just as cruelly and every bit as needlessly – and it is thus a bridge to promoting veganism. When people express horror over images depicting what Kaporos chickens go through, it provides an opportunity to point out that the chicken on their plate suffered no less.

what_can_i_do (10K)

We urge people everywhere, members of the Jewish community especially, to join us in speaking out against the use of chickens in Kaporos rituals and imploring religious leaders to take a public stand. In addition, we are grateful for your tax-deductible donations to support our paid advertisements and PR Newswire press releases throughout the country including publications specifically serving the Jewish community. This Fall, the Alliance spent $5,500 on news media outreach, winning widespread coverage of our campaign and support for our effort. To learn more about the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, please visit Our brochures “A Wing & A Prayer” and End Chickens as Kaporos buttons are available from UPC. Brochures 20 for $3 & 50 for $5. Buttons $2 each or 3 for $5. Thank you for supporting our campaign!

Winter 2012 Poultry Press NEXT